Paving road for Women Leaders in the Gender divided Landscape of Medicine

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Unaiza Ahmad, a 2nd year medical student at Faisalabad Medical University, Pakistan. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The sustainable development goal 5 (SDG-5) lays emphasis on achieving gender equality and empowering  women [1]. Therefore to meet this criteria a gender responsive approach should be introduced to strengthen health systems. Despite women being a significant contributor in medicine, they continue to be under-represented in areas involving health policy, decision-making, leadership and governance.This gap is also apparent in medical school faculties where women form only 38%, 23% of full professors and 16% of deans.[2]

Women in leadership positions are beneficial because they utilise diverse, consumer oriented  strategies for the advantage of  all demographic groups. Despite these impacts the existence of a gender gap delineates problems in the system that need to be addressed if the dream of gender equity is to be realized soon. They should be viewed with an equitable lens since women experience distinct challenges compared to men in their careers.

The mid-career point is especially sensitive to dropouts since it coincides with female reproductive years, and thus they face an added burden of childcare, with many parallel socio-cultural factors steering career decisions. Demonstrating sensitivity to these issues, employers should implement flexible policies that include  training extensions, funded leaves and provisions for childcare, to facilitate women returning to their careers.

Workplaces that are not conducive to healthy female leadership and are prone to conscious/unconscious bias or harassment discourage women. These biases can be eliminated by gender responsive training and institutional restructuring. Coupled with recognition and networking, these opportunities can build trust and diminish grievances by strengthening mutual support [3], in the form of mentorship and capacity building. Since women reportedly have only 2.5 mentors vs. 3.7 for men [4], there is a need for resourceful mentors for women. More one-on-one coaching and leadership training events/online spaces should be organized focusing on developing leadership and management skills as well as diplomatic advocacy and  research. However, healthcare training is expensive and steps are needed to be taken to facilitate sponsorships, research grants and funding.

These financial challenges are amplified by the existence of a glaring gender pay gap.

Medscape’s 2019 Physician Compensation Report identifies full-time male primary care and specialist doctors earning 25% and 33% more, respectively in comparison to their female colleagues [5]. This disparity  is confounding considering the fact that the qualifications and shift duration are equal. To ensure that services are equitably paid, transparent audits and investigations should be undertaken.  

 The involvement of women in health leadership is a valuable asset both for the health system and the population and thus a firm step towards achieving SDGs. By successfully eliminating career roadblocks we can streamline the leadership journeys of talented women, making the dream of diverse and gender balanced systems come true.




3.Dhatt R, Theobald S, Buzuzi S, et al. The role of women’s leadership and gender equity in leadership and health system strengthening. Glob Health Epidemiol Genom. 2017;2:e8. Published 2017 May 17. doi:10.1017/gheg.2016.22



About the author

Unaiza Ahmad is a 2nd year medical student at Faisalabad Medical University, Pakistan.

She is a member of IFMSA Pakistan. She is  the local Director for  Publication Support Division and also the Editor to Publications Support Division National Team.

Her fields of interest include Women empowerment, Gender equity, SRHR, Global Surgery and UHC.

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